Preview - Portimao.

Noriyuki Haga v Ben Spies at Portimao
The closest World Superbike title fight since 2004 - and closest between two riders on different brands since the epic 2002 Edwards/Bayliss showdown - will be decided at Portimao on Sunday, when Noriyuki Haga and Ben Spies will fight it out for ownership of the 2009 crown.

Haga will start the event with a slender ten point lead over rookie Spies, but a double victory for Spies on Sunday - regardless of where Haga finishers - will hand the American his first and last WSBK crown before switching to MotoGP, and Yamaha's first ever title.

Over in the red corner, 2009 is Haga's tenth full season in World Superbike and he sits third in the all-time win list with 41 victories - but no world championship.

To put that into perspective, world champions Scott Russell and John Kocinski only won 14 races during their whole career, while double world champion James Toseland needed only 16 race wins.

Despite less than a season in WSBK, Spies starts the Portimao finale just one win behind the career total of fellow Americans Kocinski and Russell. Spies has also overcome no less than five non-scores, the majority of which were out of his hands.

By contrast, Haga finished first or second in the first nine races of this season - his first with the factory Ducati team - but was injured at Donington Park (round nine) and finally lost the title lead to Spies at the Nurburgring (round eleven).

Many predicted the title battle was over, but Haga fought back and has beaten Spies - his replacement at Yamaha - in three of the last four races to set-up this weekend's showdown at the magnificent Portimao circuit.

The fight for the title is also likely to see some outside influence from the three other race winners this year.

One of those is two-time 2009 winner Michel Fabrizio, whose chief task at Portimao will be to assist team-mate Haga. At Magny-Cours the Italian was somewhat on the sidelines with two below-par races, but in Portugal he will be required to make a substantial contribution to the Ducati cause should it be required.

However no team strategy will be on the cards for the other two protagonists, Max Biaggi (Aprilia Racing) and Jonathan Rea (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda).

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